Sunday, August 29, 2021

On a Weekend in August


The waters of the Salish Sea that surround our Island are dotted with smaller islands, some inhabited, some park preserve, some a mixture. They each have a character of their own. Sidney Island is just 30 minutes away in our slow boat and is the perfect outing for our older grandchildren and their parents. A long, sandy spit of land provides the ideal setting for walking or playing. Above the spit, trails meander through a forested area, and further on is a grassy meadow. There's a little bit of everything!

Off in the distance other islands beckon, shrouded in mist that is typical of August, also known as Fog-ust. 

Give children a beach and they entertains themselves for hours. We were treated to a beachy "feast" created with seaweed and shell concoctions that were carefully explained to us by the cooks. 

A colony of gulls spent a lot of time on this stretch of sand, quietly facing into the wind. 

My week was busy. I made salsa, canned a few jars of extra tomatoes, prepared more applesauce, did some garden cleanup, sewed with one grandchild, took another for a day, and the time passed quickly and pleasantly. I confess that when Friday arrived I was a wee bit grumpy and not really looking forward to going out on the boat the next day. However, once on the water, all the cares of the week drifted away and a wonderful sense of well-being filled me as I breathed in the fresh salt air and watched the grands enjoy themselves. 

Grandpa took them on a ride in the dinghy, slow at first, but faster and faster, always asking if they were okay with the speed. They screamed with delight and made his heart happy, too. 

I hope they all slept as well as I did after a day on the water.

The waitlist for The Kitchen Front was very long at our library, but worth the wait. It was a compelling story about four women during WWII, their hopes and dreams, their joys and sorrows. It was difficult to put down. 

Yesterday's sense of contentment and well-being continued into today, Sunday. Back in May I threw a package of cosmo seeds into the ground. They grew up taller than I am and produce bloom after bloom of delicate pink flowers. I love their airiness and the fern-like greenery. Today I clipped another bouquet and added some feverfew along with vinca greenery. I glance up every so often to admire them sitting on the mantel. 

And another week begins. This one will see another month begin. Summer is slipping away; every evening the light fades sooner and the temperature cools a bit more. For as long as the flowers last I'll clip cosmos and zinnias, dahlias and roses, and hang onto summer for as long as I can. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Mellowing Days


This morning dawned still and cloudy. We turned on a few lights at 7 am. Whispers of change are in the air - a bit more wind, temperatures that require a light sweater, and leaves that are losing their brightness. 

We are very thankful for cooler temperatures. On southern Vancouver Island we have not had measurable rain for weeks and weeks. Last week a wildfire began close to the town of Ladysmith. My husband was very busy all week working on evacuation plans for long-term care homes. Fortunately, as of this morning, the fire is contained and the seniors' residences are safe. 

I picked up a case of peaches last week and they were so hard that I wondered if they would ripen. I set them out on sheets of newspaper, socially distanced from each other, and within a few days they were perfect. Sweet and juicy. Okanagan peaches are the best! I canned seven pints and we will easily eat the rest fresh. 

On Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner with friends. They have a beautiful garden with the back border a forested park. We sat outside, with cozy wraps and a tall heater going, talking and laughing until the fat moon rose high in the sky and illuminated everything in a clear light. 

My contribution to the meal was a Cherry Almond Tart. Cherry season is all too short and I thought this was a good way to bid the season a fond farewell. I combined two recipes from Laura Calder's Paris Express

After Tim left for work I sat at the table overlooking the garden with my tea and yogurt, berries, and almonds. The light was so dull that I lit the first candle of the season. I'm hoping for many more sunny days, but enjoyed the stillness of this morning and the cheery glow of the little light beside me. 

The garden beckoned after breakfast. I fertilized the squash, pulled out the sweet peas (they've given me bouquet after bouquet this summer), pulled a few weeds, and cut more dahlias. They are so flamboyant! 

The rest of the morning (it's 10:30) is open and I think I'll do some sewing. This afternoon I'll be watching 2 little girls while their mother goes to an appointment. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

On Friday: Summer on the Wane


Reddening apples are a sure sign that summer days are numbered. That, along with much cooler temperatures and cloudy skies. The bright greens of early summer mellow and soften into duller shades. I'm not nearly ready to let go of summer yet, and we have at least another six weeks of reasonably good weather. 

I've been preserving the harvest lately. Applesauce is a hit with all the grandchildren and I make it to share. Our apple trees are loaded this year. I also made 6 apple crisps, and partially baked them before tucking them into the freezer. Fig jam joined the apricot and raspberry jars made earlier. 

The garden is producing steadily - green beans, zucchini, lettuce, and tomatoes. I harvested onions a couple of weeks ago and yesterday put in some winter kale, broccoli, and leeks. We are fortunate to have such a mild climate. Ratatouille was on the menu last night and I spent several hours chopping eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, tomato and garlic, along with thyme, rosemary, and parsley, then sauteeing each vegetable separately before adding a squeeze of lemon and some basil. I made enough to put three more meals into the freezer. 

My sweet mother celebrated her 85th birthday this week. My sister held a party on Sunday. We didn't attend, but on the morning of her birthday I called Mom before she went to her regular day of quilting at MCC to wish her a happy day. I had sent a package over earlier. Then, I drove to the ferry and crossed to the mainland. My dad met me outside the quilt room (he was in on the surprise) and together we walked into the room. I'll always remember the look of surprise on my mom's face - priceless! I took them out for lunch and we visited for a bit at their home, then I drove back to the ferry and was home again shortly after 7. It was a long day, but so worth it!

I have no idea what this dahlia's name is, but she's a showy creature, producing bloom after bloom of coral-coloured flowers. 

Cosmos are growing taller than I am, with cheerful pink blooms. Zinnias, roses, hydrangeas - the garden is awash is colour as the flowers put out their best effort knowing that the season is short. 

Sunset arrives earlier each day. We took a walk along the water around 8 pm and watch the sun slip in and out of the clouds on its way down behind the islands. 

I'll be tackling the job of cleaning out the deep freezer tomorrow. It would have been easier to do it before starting to fill it up, but that didn't get done. I want to organize it better as it's in a bit of a shambles just now. Do you keep a written inventory of what's in your freezer, or is it all in your head? Mine is the latter, but my daughter is inspiring me to consider the former. 

Happy Weekend, dear readers. Take time to enjoy the beauty of each day.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

In a Field of Sunflowers


I have had a heavy heart these past few days. So much of the world seems spectacularly broken. I ache for the people of Haiti, and for those in Afghanistan, particularly the women and girls, and I feel so very helpless. Wildfires continue to roar across our province, devouring towns, homes, and hectares and hectares of forest. A most unnecessary election has been called in my country, and Covid cases rise in the unvaccinated population. Our Iranian friends are very sad because her mother is currently in ICU in Iran, and A feels very far away from her family. There are few vaccines available there. Logic and common sense seem to have fled the world. 

And yet. 

In my garden there is a profusion of beauty - hydrangeas, roses, zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, and more. I go out into the cool morning and pluck green beans from the climbing vines and peer under huge squash leaves to discover zucchini that seem to have exploded overnight. The tomatoes are, at last, beginning to ripen and I pop a red cherry globe, warm from the sun, into my mouth and sweetness explodes. 

I am grateful for my place in this world. It is a gift that I do not take lightly. 

On Sunday we enjoyed the company of two of our grands while their parents enjoyed a day to themselves to celebrate an anniversary. A new sign along the highway alerted us to a Sunflower Walk, so we thought we'd explore. There were lots of photo opportunities and we had so much fun winding in and out of the tall sunflowers and posing in front of the cut outs. 

Six varieties of sunflowers lifted their faces to the sun. The temperature was not too hot, and not too cold, but just right. 

Does this American Gothic couple look familiar to you? 

The pinkish petals of this sunflower glow against the light and its beauty is juxtaposed alongside the ugliness of world events. How resilient is earth's beauty, and how soothing it is. Beauty does not erase brokenness, but something in me, and in most humans, was created to absorb beauty, and, as Wendell Berry writes to "come into the peace of wild things" and to "rest in the grace of the world." 

Daily beauty lies all around us and calls us to notice. What is beautiful in your world just now?


Friday, August 13, 2021

On Friday: Heat, Flowers, Panna Cotta


As the afternoon heat builds, the garden stills, everything quiet under the baking sun. I do the same. This morning, in anticipation of guests arriving, I made salads (mediterranean pasta salad, green bean and radish) and a marinade for the flank steak. Before we eat I'll slice red juicy tomatoes (alas, not from our garden yet) and drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them and toss torn basil leaves atop. 

I cut flowers this morning, too. There is a lot of colour in the garden just now although the blooms do not last long in this third heat wave of summer. 

On the mantel a cool arrangement of hydrangeas.

On the dining room table a fresh bouquet of roses. 

Last night I made Panna Cotta for tonight's dessert. I find that having dessert taken care of ahead of time frees my mind when I'm preparing for guests. This is an easy one to make, along with a cherry, blackberry, and blueberry sauce. I did unmold one ahead of time, for two reasons. One, I wanted to see if unmolding would be successful, and two, I wanted a photo for this post. 

I did refrain from eating it and put it in the fridge until later this evening. 

For the rest of the afternoon I'll be sipping on ice water and reading a book. It's too hot to do anything else. Oh, and to compound the heat, our skies are smoky from wildfires that cast an eerie orange glow on everything. How we (and other parts of the world) need rain. 

Happy Weekend, dear readers!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Traveling Downtown


We had a taste of Mexican culture on Sunday afternoon. Although we won't be traveling south any time soon, our local Mexican-Canadian association did several performances around the downtown core on Sunday. A typical mariachi band and dancers in colourful costumes played and whirled on the steps of the Legislature building where Captain Vancouver's statue stands. I wonder if he was lucky enough to see such a sight on his travels up the west coast. 

Then off we walked to Fisherman's Wharf where we enjoyed Mexican food for lunch - I had Prawn Tacos and he had Prawns Diablo. We seem to always order the same each time we go. 
We eat mostly western European-style food at home, but if I had to choose just one other culture's food to enjoy, it would be Mexican. Not Mexican-American which tends to be very heavy on the cheese and fat, but authentic Mexican. Although some people say it's too spicy, I've found that the spice is often added as a condiment and to one's personal liking. 

What cultural food traditions do you enjoy?

After lunch we wandered along the waterfront. Lush hanging baskets are a trademark of Victoria's downtown core where the tourists hang out. The US/Canada border is now open to Americans coming across, but oddly not to Canadians going south. Very strange considering our vaccination rates are higher and case rates much lower than those of the USA. However, as in everything about this strange time, it seems that politics and not common sense is involved. 

One of my favourite downtown buildings is the Customs House. It was built shortly after British Columbia's entry into the federation of Canada by the Dominion Government who wanted to establish a federal image. It was built in the Second Empire Style, with a mansard roof covered in slate tiles, and was designed to impress upon the new province the stability of the new nation. 

The building really came into its own during the Klondike Goldrush of 1897. Here prospectors obtained certificates enabling them to pass through the Yukon customs house without delay. The government enforced regulations about the entrance of foreign goods, and Victoria did a booming business outfitting miners with the equipment and supplies needed for their northern adventures. 

The building is now used for offices for various firms. 

And home again where the roses are blooming beautifully. They had a hard time with the extreme heat in mid-late June and have taken awhile to recover. These sit on my dining table and waft their fragrance when I walk by. 

Friday, August 06, 2021

On Friday: Zinnias, Books, and Apricots


Zinnias are such cheerful flowers, so bright and pert. I cut a little bouquet for the patio table where I can see them from inside the house, as well as enjoy them outside. They last a lovely long time. 

A little visitor decided the flowers needed washing, so she pulled them out, one by one, poured water over them and stacked them more or less neatly on the table. You'll notice that the bird is getting a bath, too. Give a child access to water play and she entertains herself for long stretches of time. 

The other day when I was downtown having my car serviced, I wandered into Russell Books, one of our local stores. Books old and new fill two stories of inviting shelves with books that beg to be taken home. I'm not one to resist the siren call of books and picked up the little stack above. Thrush Green is an addition to my collection of Miss Read books. I never really got into reading the Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and I thought I'd try again with this book. As for the Little French Kitchen, well, with its colourful photos that feature dishes from various regions of France, it fairly jumped into my hands. 

With all three children living in town, there is a LOT of interchange between our homes. Furniture is used here and then there, baby toys make their way around, as do items of clothing. Books are passed around. Recently a food dehydrator and a portable barbecue are being shared. One daughter had no further use for the bookcase above, so it arrived here in our guest room. It's larger than the bookcase previously there, which will likely be taken to the thrift store. I spent a pleasant time rearranging books, taking some to other bookshelves in the house and bringing other books here. I recently culled quite a few books and it's good to have some empty space on the shelves. 

The little painting above the bookshelf is a watercolour done by my sister-in-law of the farm where my mother-in-law grew up, and my husband and his siblings spent many happy days. 

When I went to the market earlier in the week, the sign by the apricots said "last of the season" so I knew I needed to do something to celebrate apricots. This apricot tart was the result, a variation of one in Will Torrent's P√Ętisserie At Home. It was most delicious to share with friends. 

Late yesterday afternoon the trees began tossing in the wind blowing in from the Pacific, bringing cooler air and, hopefully, a bit of rain to slow down the wildfires. Not enough is forecast to make much of a difference to any outdoor weekend plans. We just might have to dash for a bit of cover for a few minutes. 

Have a wonderful weekend, and thank you for reading my blog. 

Monday, August 02, 2021

August Long Weekend: Here and There


There: We sat on the rocks overlooking the water and chatted with good friends. McKenzie Bight is a fairly short hike, just over a kilometre or more down a steep trail to the water. Who goes down must come up, and I'm glad it was a comfortable day, temperature-wise. How dry the forest is and how lovely to sit and listen to the water lap at the shore and watch gulls soar so effortlessly. 

Here: I made a few jars of dill pickles. Recipes have changed over the years. I'm sure my grandmother never sealed her pickles in a water bath, but ensured the jars were very hot and the brine hot when poured in. I read recently that the blossom end of cucumbers should be cut off before pickling them, hence the flat ends in the jars. I really wonder how much safer it all is. 

Here: A Bolero rose from the garden where the hot dry weather has slowed down the number of blossoms on the roses. They are forming once again and I look forward to more blooms. 

Here: Peach season begins. They are so sweet and juicy, and the season is all too short. A salad with grilled chicken, sliced snowpeas, red onion, peaches, and basil hit the spot one warm evening. A squeeze of lime and swirl of olive oil to finish, and a slice of bread to accompany it - dinner done!

Here: Saturday was cooler, in part, I think, due to the smoke haze covering the sun. It was high and didn't really affect us much. I tackled our small walk-in closet, removing everything and piling the clothes on the bed and shoes and other paraphernalia on the floor. It's amazing how much stuff was stored there. I dusted and vacuumed, then steam cleaned, sorted through everything and re-organized. It took much longer than I'd anticipated, but looks neat and tidy. There's another rack to the right of the photo for my dresses and Tim's blazers, suits, and other coats. 

Looking at the photo I notice the dominance of blue in my clothing, and in his. 

Here: One of the hydrangea bushes is a vivid purple, and so full and lush. I've been cutting big bouquets and small ones. This is a row of clear bottles and vases lined up on the window next to our breakfast table, overlooking our patio. I love hydrangeas for their exuberant blooms, and of course, the blue tones. 

There: Sculptural dried grasses on the rocks overlooking the Saanich Inlet today. 

And so August begins. I'm always a little taken aback when this month arrives for although it's still warm and beautiful, it marches to the end of summer. Perhaps I'll feel differently this year knowing that I won't be going back to teaching after the Labour Day weekend. I do want to enjoy each day to its fullest and not be looking ahead too much. I've seen photos of Halloween and even Christmas on some sites and quickly scroll past them, for summer is so short and so beautiful that it warrants all the attention it deserves. 

How do you feel about August? Enjoy this glorious month!

A Bit of This and That

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